First Impressions: Rusty Hearts Beta


As someone who finds it difficult to get immersed and  caught up in a video game, MMOs come very selective for me. No matter if it's free-to-play or not, a great game should make me feel as though my time was well spent while playing.

Coming off of playing Rusty Hearts, the free, stylistic MMO Hack-n'-slash clearly influenced by designs in anime and over-viewed by Perfect World Entertainment, there are a lot of feelings about how I should go about grading my experience. It offers some unique gameplay mechanics typically avoided in many other MMOs, yet feels like any other average HnS console game, albeit with quests and parties and more controlled fighting areas.

It's flashy, it setting is somewhat engrossing, and I find myself marathoning numerous dungeons. Then why is it that I find myself unimpressed and my time a bit wasted?

Rusty Hearts Beta (PC/OS X)
Developer: Stairway Games
Publisher: Windysoft
Release Date: 2011 TBA (Closed Beta: July 27th, 2011)
MSRP: Free-to-Play

To sum up Rusty Hearts in one word would be disservicing a lot of the hard work that was surely put into it, but if I absolutely had to pick one, it would be "monotonous". Put even more simply, aside from the usual PvP and interesting quests I find myself grinding away for hours, robotically earning XP with only a thinly veiled story placed on top to keep me going.  The main difference between other games with this formula (i.e. Ninety-Nine Nights or Castle Crashers) and Rusty Hearts is simply variety, or the lack thereof.

At the start of your new account, there are (currently) three characters available to select: Frantz (middle-ranged, balanced stats), Trude (short-ranged, quick attacking) and Angela (Slow, some strong combo abilities). Without an alternative playstyle like, for example, a strong magic class or long-ranged projectile class, things ultimately barrel down to "mash buttons and hit the crap out of enemies until they die". In my play-through, things couldn't have been much more than that. A character based on range attacks, a tank or even one with a weapon with a controlled distance to push enemies back is not seen, and most of the time playing defensive is pretty hit or miss, with the counter system being partially unresponsive and blocking breaking the entire flow of the game to a screeching halt.

Despite those faults, and despite making me wish there was more, Rusty Hearts had one objective clearly in mind, and that is to bring a straight-up hardcore brawler to be enjoyed with (or against) friends, sans placing someone in a boring role as a healer or guard. The goal seems to make Devil May Cry combine with co-op, minus bullets and Gen-X attitude. Because of this, it plays at an incredibly fast pace that are concentrated into small, bite-sized section in each of the dungeons. The mentality is that you MUST kill all creatures to progress, so hiding behind a guard and spamming spells is not an option.

A valid option, however, is spamming the crap out of your attack button. There's technically a combo system in place here, yet in my time playing as Frantz I felt comfortable using the same one-two combo on weak enemies, then using my abilities periodically on the archers and bosses. At its core, it's mindless fun: I'm pretty entertained by the vibrant colors and loud noises, yet at points I can't help but notice that I'm doing little more than pressing my X key a lot with my 1 or 3 key thrown in there with it.

Despite it being steamed towards a cooperative experience, in my time playing with Hiroko I noticed nothing more than a blur of swings, sparks and destruction while wailing on some poor guys. We both instinctively took a half of the total goons, splitting up the enemies and our interaction. Even though we were playing together, only occasionally would we both team up on a group of dudes to kill before splitting up and bashing baddies. Hiroko herself seemed to think mediocrely (that's a real word, I looked it up) of the game, as we both found ourselves having more fun joking around and having our characters behave funny.

However, when there were moments when she would use Angela to launch an enemy in the air, followed by me taking over and busting it up before slamming it back down, the real magic of Rusty Hearts shined. Played with three other people, who all who are in it for a cool experience rather than mashing buttons, could prove to be an amazing experience. PvP proves to be one of the greatest things about Rusty Hearts, providing plenty of choice for whatever your play style. There's a lot of actual fun to be had in a surplus of different modes, such as King of the Hill, Tag matches, 4v4, Protect the Leader and an all-out singles brawl with 7 other players, each that are added to your stats and rewarding you with points that could be spent in the main game.

Even though I fretted I would soon tire of this, I couldn't help but feel that I felt rather preoccupied with simply swinging and killing, and caught myself saying "...just one more...just one more...". In fact, because the attacks are so pretty and mesmerizing, I find that the only thing that kept me grinding was the stylistic nature of the graphics and design. Not only is the cel-shading in the presentation fairly good, but because it's running on a simpler engine as opposed to one with more rigorous rendering and technical mumbo jumbo, it runs incredibly smooth on an average gaming PC and can still look wonderful. The Victorian design also is simply incredible. The glorious music that accompanies this sleek setting perfectly conveys a world that could be potentially full of rich details and mythology, and honestly gets me excited for more quests that can explain the history of the worlds in Rusty Hearts. It's interesting that for a game with an intriguing setting to be strictly a hack n' slash... not necessarily disappointing or a shame, but just an interesting approach.

The towns featured in my time playing carried this same detail, and also conveniently placed shops and NPC's with quests in locations that are recognizable in multiple visits (though there is a nice mini-map to locate those, too). Because there are only three characters available as of writing, customization is almost a must to help throw some diversity in the game. Hair-color, equipment and color schemes are your main choices as you level up in the game, and though it may not be much it sure is a welcome chance, especially in a team with three Angela's. While on the subject, finding friends proved a bit difficult at first (Hiroko and I were chatting over Gmail, trying to add each other), though that may be a personal problem on our end (there was initially no clear "Friend Invites" inbox before the closed beta officially started when we played). Joining parties proves pretty easy, though, and host has a certain amount of control, yet still can't ultimately decide who and who doesn't earn items or loot, which is split up evenly to all members along with bonuses for larger teams.

Now, aside from in-game issues, there have been some performance oddities going on during the beta. The largest one obviously was the servers being down, though granted this is still a beta and these things are to be expected. However, it's still rather irritating to look at Rusty Hearts as the game to bring in all the stops for MMO-meets-DmC, as-- and if I may further push my boundaries in keeping this impression on subject-- there are more immersive options out there in a similar genre, like the new free MMO Dragon Nest, sporting mechanics that Rusty Hearts could have similarly implemented but perhaps couldn't very well due to the psudo-3D/2D isometric plane that characters move on while in dungeons. Things like building relationships with NPCs or mining or even having an ever-changing economy could have helped improve Rusty Hearts without giving up ALL of it's simplicity.

There's enough reason to write off this game by its repetitive nature, but Rusty Hearts is far from a failure. Even under the guise "cutting it more slack because it's free-to-play", it's not fair to denounce this game without at least attempting it. The game may not have intense and demanding conditions to keep players grounded in the long run like so many MMO's, yet I can imagine myself playing this occasionally when feeling the need to waste digital bad guys, and in fact I may just do so pretty soon. The game has a cool sense of community; not really one that shoves it in your face (as you can easily play this by yourself for a while and have some fun), but one that encourages those cool moments like mentioned above. It has a lot of small touches that cater to providing a simple, yet responsive experience (like using a PC compatible gamepad to play with, a la console action titles), and best of all, though I may dismiss my previous point with this statement, it's free. Maybe if I stick with Rusty Hearts, grab a few friends who want to join in, and play an ass-ton of PvP, I'm sure I wouldn't be opposed to playing just one more dungeon of Rusty Hearts...

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MARCContributor   gamer profile

don't even bother calling me out, I go by OxKing now cuz he's the ickest & more + disclosures


Filed under... #First Impressions #Japanator Original #PC #top stories #Video games



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